A STUNNING LARGE-SCALE COMMISSION BY ARTIST JAGANNATH PAUL
Over the years of coordinating commissions at Laasya Art, I have observed that commissioned paintings — and their collaborative nature — often challenge artists to create something completely new and outside of their usual process, resulting in some of their best works. This is certainly true for a recent commission by artist Jagannath Paul, which led to one of his most stunning and ambitious paintings ever!
The client’s brief truly gave us wings to fly with, inspiring both me as a gallerist and Jagannath as an artist. Although the client was new to Laasya, after a few initial conversations over the phone, he wholeheartedly put his faith and trust in us. This pure confidence inspired Jagannath to create something that he had never done before.
In the brief, the client explained the three most important pieces of his vision:
1. He wanted a bold, clean painting with multiple ‘layers’ that would be a conversation starter.
2. He wanted the faces of a man and woman in the painting in Jagannath’s signature style, but he explained that the woman should dominate the composition, as a representation of women as the center of the home. The client specified the woman should wear a bindi in the color of sindoor.
3. Finally, like Jagannath, the client grew up in West Bengal, so he wanted the painting to feature Bengali motifs that would uniquely refer to his upbringing and his culture.
At this point, I started the process of ideation and customization with Jagannath. We developed two concepts: one was a horizontal format, and another was a square format, as shown in the sketches above.
Once we decided to go with the square format, we further developed two themes: either four compositions in one large painting (as shown above), or one pair of a man’s and woman’s face across four smaller paintings. We decided to go with the single pair of faces for its high impact value, and the final painting would be 9 x 9 feet, comprised of 4 paintings each measuring 4.5 x 4.5 feet.
That’s when I stepped back to let Jagannath take over. He simply excelled on this project, working for several weeks at a stretch on the background, with many long days almost bordering on obsession. The painting was also so large that it would not fit in the artist’s studio, so Jagannath actually created a makeshift studio on the ground floor of his apartment building! Below is an image of the complete background.
Jagannath integrated elements of Bengali culture in the background, from drawings of traditional Bengali dance forms and kalighat paintings to key landmarks in Kolkata and legendary Bengali figures, like Nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore and freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
And at last, here is an image of the completed painting, with the faces painted on top of the background.
Below are images of these various details in each canvas, as they appear in the final painting.
The top left panel features:
The Victoria Memorial in Kolkata
The Kolkata race course (by the woman’s right hand eyebrow)
The Howrah Bridge (under the woman’s left hand eye)
The top right panel features:
Subhash Chandra Bose, who hailed from West Bengal, riding a horse
The Sundarbans, a national heritage site with tigers, crocodiles, deer and other animals
The bottom left panel features:
A blue mask from the Chhau folk dance (in the bottom right corner)
Line drawings in the style of Kalighat pattachitra, a type of natural dye paintings of the goddess Kali typically seen at Bengali temples
Lines from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, written in English and in Bengali: When God is dead, religion becomes one
The bottom right panel features:
Goddess Durga, who is worshiped widely in West Bengal including a renowned festival in the early fall
Durga’s four children: Saraswati, the goddess of the arts and learning, with a veena (musical instrument); Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, standing on a lotus flower; Ganesha, god of good fortune; and Kartikeya, whose mount is a peacock
The Khidirpur docks in Kolkata and the Dakshineswar Kali temple
Once the background was done, Jagannath began painting the faces in a lighter, softer color palette, to allow viewers to better see the stories beneath the faces.
Once completed, not only were Jagannath and I pleased with the painting, but the client and his wife were absolutely thrilled and excited to have the commission hanging in their home at last.
As a gallerist, it was a very satisfying project. It helps tremendously when you have a client who is operating from a space of trust and faith, which gives the artist the freedom to follow their instincts and take the outcome to completely different heights.
If you are curious about commissioning artwork online or locally, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com or +1 650-770-9088. You can also read more on our guide to commissioning artwork with Laasya Art.
— Sonia Nayyar Patwardhan